There is so much to see in the United States that it can be hard to decide where to go next and what to choose. This USA bucket list has the most exciting and iconic places to visit and things to do in America. Whether this is your first trip to the US or if you are from the States, you will be able to experience the most amazing and unique things America has to offer. Some people say that the culture in the United States is very new and there are not as many unique things as there are in Europe, but it isn’t true. Each city has its history and culture and the best local cuisine that was formed by the people and the cultures immigrating to the region. Here are the top 20 things you must add to your American bucket list when you are planning your next vacation!
USA Bucket List – 20 Unique Places to Go and Things to Do in America
Watch a Broadway Show in New York City
When in New York, you should go to see a Broadway show. You might not be able to get seats to the Hamilton, the new story of one of America’s founding fathers interpreted through hip-hop. (My dream!) However, there are still the classics and Broadway truly can’t be beaten. Some of my favorites – The Lion King, Les Miserables, and Wicked – the classics you shouldn’t miss on your trip to the Big Apple. For more information about available tickets, go here.
I didn’t understand what that means until I stood and watched the water hit the rocks with incredible might and strength at Niagara Falls. The force of the water is so energizing. Stand as close to the falls as you can (or take a ride on the Maid of the Mist) and feel the power, listen to the sound of the roaring water (
and paint with the colors of the wind)!
There are a lot of fun things to do in Niagara Falls, so planning ahead will help you ensure that you get to see everything on your list. You might want to consider the Niagara USA Discovery Pass – you’ll get a discount on admission to popular park attractions. Niagara Falls has to be on your USA bucket list – more than six million feet of water cascading over a rocky crest is a view to remember!
Remember, it’s partially located in the United States and partially in Canada, so if you can, go to the Canadian part as well! This is a place you should experience at least once in your lifetime. But if you go once, you will probably come back again.
Gaze at the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Discovered in 1870, the Old Faithful geyser was named for its frequent eruptions, which is more than a million since it became the world’s first national park. Thermal features change constantly and Old Faithful may stop erupting someday. Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. Its maximum height ranges from 90 to 184 feet. While it is not the biggest or the most regular geyser in Yellowstone, it is the biggest regular geyser. The view of the Old Faithful is truly amazing and Yellowstone should be in the top 5 of your American bucket list!
Visit the Alamo in San Antonio
San Antonio is one of the oldest cities in the United States with rich and amazing history. No visit to San Antonio, Texas is complete without a tour of the Alamo, the site of the most important battle for the Republic of Texas. Visit Alamo to understand early Texas history and the battle for Texas independence as well as Spanish architecture and artifacts. After you are done there, check out the Riverwalk and eat at one of the many great restaurants.
Attend the Mardi Gras Festival in New Orleans
Another city that has a very unique culture that you absolutely have to experience is New Orleans. The most exciting time to visit New Orleans is during the Carnival season and especially during the Mardi Gras Festival. But don’t worry if you go at another time, there’s always a party to be found in NOLA, from poky jazz bars to smoldering blues clubs. New Orleans is definitely a great place to add to your bucket list to get truly unique USA experiences. Read more about the oldest cities in the United States that have a unique history and shaped the US in my blog post.
Catch the Cubs game at Wrigley Field while taking down a Chicago-style hot dog
If you are looking for uniquely American experiences, this is it. Even if you are not a baseball fan, at least once in your life you should experience this iconic place. It is synonymous with Chicago and a visit to the city would be incomplete, without a visit to Wrigley Field. Before the game, go see the reflection of the city in the Cloud Gate, or “the bean”. And after having a Chicago-style hot dog have a Chicago-style pizza! After you do, let me know which one you liked more in the comments below! (or send me a message on Instagram)
Planning a trip? See more unique things to do in Chicago!
Go skiing in Aspen Highlands, Colorado
Aspen Highlands features extreme Colorado steeps. Think you are really, really good? Then go where the locals go to get humbled – Aspen Highlands. Wide-open runs, breathtaking views, plenty of beginner and intermediate runs, and hike-accessible terrain that is some of the steepest in the state. If you love adventurous and exciting holidays, Colorado has everything you need!
Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is an amazing experience that is worth any USA bucket list. It does, however, require a good amount of physical training beforehand. The views are even more amazing from the bottom than they are from the top, and if you would like, you could take the mules up or down. And plan ahead, people reserve their lodging (and mules) up to 6 months in advance.
Try some BBQ ribs in Kansas City, Missouri
When in Kansas City, you’ll be surrounded by some of the best barbecue joints in the country so why not try one.. Or two? Among my favorites – Jack Stack and Stack BBQ.
And if you are in Kansas City for the BBQ, check out their WWII museum – it is phenomenal.
Walk the Walk of Fame in LA
Los Angeles is a vibrant city, full of art, history, and nature. Of course, many people go to L.A. for the movie and television culture that the area is most famous for. If you are in L.A., don’t miss seeing the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, and the Guinness World Records Museum.
Go Gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada
With a rich history of nearly a century of legalized gambling, Las Vegas is the mecca for casino players across the globe. The city contains more than 75 casinos, with most concentrated on Las Vegas Boulevard – more commonly known as the Strip. The Bellagio, the Caesars Palace, the Venetian – visit all of these when you are in Las Vegas. Maybe, you’ll bring some cash home!
Attend the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Have you heard of the Burning Man Festival? If you have always wanted to go, do it! There is nothing like that! Participants join in the effort to co-create Black Rock City, a temporary town in the middle of the desert dedicated to art and community. There you will find art installations, themed camps, music, and a giant burning man at the end of the festival! You know, that’s the reason everyone is there!
Watch the fish fly at Pike Place Market and leave your “mark” on the Gum Wall in Seattle
Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is known for their tradition of fishmongers throwing fish that customers have purchased, before they are wrapped.
And, of course, see the gum wall (or touch?), it’s gross, but a must if you are in Seattle. And you can add to the art!
Spend a day wandering in NYC
Visit the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, and the Twin Towers Memorial. I actually did all of these in one day the last time I visited. Yes, that is a lot of walking but it is doable. And, it’s amazing! My favorite parts of NYC – the busy streets of Lower Manhattan, hearing different languages everywhere you go, and NY-style pizza. It almost doesn’t feel like you are in the US, so you must go. When you are there, spend at least a day shopping in some of the most famous shopping areas in the US!
Get lost among giant sequoia trees in the Redwood National Park, California
Travel to Northern California’s stunning Redwood National Park and see the tallest trees in the world. You will feel like a tiny fairy (or gnome) as you stroll in the shadows of these enormous trees and explore rocky undeveloped beaches, fern-studded canyons, open prairie, and oak woodlands.
See “the Heads” in Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
South Dakota is home to the Badlands and the Needles of the Black Hills, but nothing “stands out” quite like Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This project was created as a way to attract tourists to the state and, it worked! Mount Rushmore is now visited by nearly 3 million people annually! And yes, I hope you can see how excited I was in the photo above!
Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and see Alcatraz in San Francisco, California
Rent a bike and pedal your way over the world’s most famous bridges! The Golden Gate bridge is one of the most famous and beautiful bridges in the world because of its spectacular location, graceful lines, details, and bright color. With towers extending 746 feet into the sky and over 100 feet beneath the bay, the bridge is an engineering marvel. There are so many other beautiful locations in San Francisco and every single one of them is worth going to, read here about cool places and neighborhoods to see in San Francisco.
Related: Travelling to San Francisco
Dive into Puerto Rico’s Bio-luminescent Bay
If there’s one thing you can’t miss during your vacation in Puerto Rico, it’s experiencing the glowing lagoon while kayaking or snorkeling. The bioluminescent bay in La Parguera is a natural phenomenon unlike any other. Sometimes called the ‘phosphorescent bay’, it is home to year-round luminescence and is one of only seven of its kind in the world.
Experience Saint Louis like a Local
See a Cardinals baseball game, visit the Budweiser brewery and eat at Pappy’s Smokehouse in Saint Louis. Experience your day as recommended by a Saint Louis local and then go and take a picture with the Arch. (not so local, but worth it!) If you have more time, visit the Science Museum and the Zoo! (both are free!!)
Watch the Northern Lights in Alaska
Last but not least on the USA bucket list is the Northern Lights of Alaska. Northern Alaska is where many Americans head for the chance to see the northern lights. Spend some time above the Arctic Circle under the mysterious, eerie northern lights from mid-September to late April to witness the phenomenon of the aurora borealis.
More Ideas for your Bucket List:
- Learn about American Government in Wahington DC
- Hike the Bryce Canyon National Park
- Explore the Ancient Homes at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado
- Hike the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Listen to Jazz, Try Creole Food and Stay at the French Quarter in New Orleans
- Visit the Walt Disney World in Orlando
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- See Someone Famous in Hollywood, California